JUST how much Western Australia’s entrepreneurial talent punches above its weight is exhibited in the state’s track record for sending its business leaders to Monaco for the equivalent of industry’s Academy Awards.
Twice in the 10 years since Ernst & Young has been running its Entrepreneur of the Year program in WA have entrants from this state gone on to represent Australia in the international competition.
And, unlike the Academy Awards (at least as far as actors and directors are concerned), there is no opportunity to repeat the feat.
WA’s Monaco representatives have been John Rothwell of Austal Ships and Rod Jones of Navitas, both leaders and co-founders of unique businesses that are global leaders in their field.
Mr Rothwell recalls getting the rock star treatment when he went to Monaco after winning the 2002 Australian EoY award.
“The real experience is probably the interaction with a vast number of successful people, and the range of businesses they are involved in is just endless,” he said.
“Most of us in business learn a lot by talking to others and seeing what models they are using to drive their businesses, and inevitably you do that to see if there is something you missed or if there’s a different approach.”
Mr Jones recalled being quite nervous when he arrived for the awards.
“I was almost in awe of some of the stories,” he said.
The educational entrepreneur said it was heartening to find so many business leaders had the same attitude as he did.
“I am very laid back and don’t tolerate bulldust. Everybody I met was of the same ilk,” Mr Jones said. “They were passionate and enthusiastic, they worked hard.
“You start to realise they are some of the attributes of what being an entrepreneur is all about, that is what impressed me the most.
“Literally all of them had started with nothing and built something from nothing and were just humble, nice people.”
Both Mr Rothwell and Mr Jones said that following their win they had been involved in the judging process, which was hard work but rewarding.
NGIS managing director Paul Farrell said he learned a lot from being an entrant, with one of the best lessons coming from his interaction with Mr Rothwell, then a judge, who was impatient with an explanation of the technology company’s core business towards the end of a long evening.
“‘Look son, I am tired and I have never understood technology; you can talk to me till I am blue in the face and I will never understand it, so let’s just go to the P&L shall we’,” Mr Farrell recalls Mr Rothwell telling him.
“I learned a lot from that. I realised people didn’t understand our business. In those days there were no Google Maps, I realised I had to come up with a ways of explaining what we do.”